By William C. Sexton
It is my conviction that one of the greatest, if not the greatest, needs in the church of the Lord today is a restoration of the sense of urgency to save the lost that characterized the early disciples of the Lord. This sense of urgency, it appears to me, is lacking in so many of the congregations of the Lord’s people today.
Conditions must have either caused us to believe that no one is interested, or the gospel is not needed or is inadequate to save. Or, is it possible that we have begun to doubt that people are really lost until they have been confronted with the gospel plan?
We as disciples of the Lord, individually, and we as congregations of the Lord’s people, collectively, need to have restored in our minds and hearts the full realization that men and women are lost without the gospel, and we need to demonstrate with our lives and actions that we believe the gospel can save! It is proclaimed to be the “power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16). Do we really believe it? Are we aware of the directions, “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature?” If we are aware, then are we evidencing our faith in the command? If so, then Amen! If not, then may I shock you and stimulate you to awakening, a-preparing, a-running, a-disturbing of others? I hope that I may; for that is my aim!
As we approach the subject, we shall look at it from four points of view: Identification-what it is; Signification-how important it is; Manner-how it is done; and Motivation-forces working for and against us.
This article shall deal with the Identification, only. In articles to follow, we shall deal with the other aspects of this important subject.
Personally-answer in your own mind what is `personal evangelism.” Until each person gets into his own mind what it is that we are talking about, we shall be fruitless. Look, if you will, at these passages of scripture (John 1:35-51; 3:1-5; 4:6-25). What do we see in these passages? Is it not individual, personal encounter and confrontation? Is it not a ,one-to-one encounter of individuals with the Lord, first? Then is it not individuals taking the initiative, on a personal level, and contacting and confronting men and women with the findings which they have discovered?
Andrew, after finding the Lord, “findeth his own brother, Simon, and saith unto him, we have found the Messiah, which is, being interpreted, .the Christ” (John 1:41). Furthermore, “he ‘ brought him to Jesus.” Philip, after finding the Lord, “findeth Nathaniel, and saith unto him, we have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathaniel, like most people we will meet today was somewhat preoccupied and prejudiced. However, Philip did as any of us can do, he said, “Come and see” . (John 1:46). When Nathaniel came and investigated adequately, he said, “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God: thou art the king of Israel” (v. 49).
Nicodemus, a man of some means, came to Jesus by night to talk with Him and have the Lord converse with him regarding entering the kingdom of the Lord (John 3:1-6). The woman at the well, (John 4:6-26; 4:39) had a personal encounter with the Lord, and though she was not the most reputable person, being convinced of the Lord’s status, went into the city and caused many to come and investigate further and “many . . . believed on him for the saying of the woman . . . .” In summary, was it not because these people had heard a message, believed, and acted on it that they then began telling their associates, friends, neighbors, relatives of it and Him?
What does the word “Evangelism” mean? Well, we know what an evangelist is, don’t we? He is a person who preaches the good news. He gets this descriptive title because of what he does-preaching the “good news,” the gospel. However, we may have developed the idea that “evangelism” is limited to the telling of the good news in an assembly-in what has come to be called a “gospel meeting.” Such ought to be a form of evangelism, a manner of evangelizing, the spreading of the kingdom message. However, that is not what we are talking about when we say “Personal Evangelism.”
We are talking about the spreading of the “good news” on the personal level: by you, an individual disciple of the Lord, a Christian. It is the same message that “ought” to be spread from the pulpit, and often is. But, you and I can reach more people on an individual level-our associates, friends, neighbors, relatives-than can be ‘reached from the pulpit; and we can reach some that can never be reached by the pulpit, radio, T.V., printed page, etc. However, we are not to be working in opposition with these methods of evangelizing. Rather, we are to be working in conjunction with them. We have the same objective in mind: the saving of souls.
Duty and Privilege
Scriptures indicating the duty and privilege of every Christian doing this word of evangelizing are many. (Prov. 11:3b; Dan. 12:3; Luke 19:10; Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; James 5:19-20; 1 Peter 3:15). Jesus points to the scarcity of individuals who will labor in this field (Matt. 9:37-38). The conditions in this respect have not changed today; then there are many who are working in the wrong field and do not know it! They are working as though they were working with the authority and permission of the Lord, when in fact they are presenting a perverted gospel message, one that has been altered, changed, watered down, to the point that it has lost its saving power. Its spiritual food value has been removed and replaced by a substitute which will make one “full,” but still starve to death.
We have the grand privilege to say “come” (Rev. 22:17). We have examples of the early Christians, when they were run out of town, they went everywhere presenting the good news, the saving message (Acts 8:34). We have the grand obligation of being “ready” to present the basis for our hope to the person who asks for the “answer” (1 Peter 3:15). The “blood” of the lost shall be on our shoulders, if we have the opportunity and do not discharge our responsibility by telling men of their lost condition and of the saving power of the gospel (Acts 20:26-27; Ezek. 3:17-21).
W e need to distinguish “Personal Evangelism,” though, from some ugly acts which might be mis-labeled as such. “Sheep stealing” is not the same thing. This refers to urging Christians of one congregation to become members of “our congregation.” There is no place for this activity in the Lord’s church. Such, however, is not the same as getting a person “out of” a congregation which has been “spewed” out of the Lord’s “mouth” (Rev. 3:14-19). A congregation that has had the Lord to remove its “candlestick” (Rev. 2:5) ought to have its members rescued from destruction, too.
Thus positively, personal evangelism is causing a person to know the truth, being convicted by it, and submitting to it (John 8:32; James 1:18-23; Heb. 11:6; Acts 17:30-31; Rom. 10:9-10; Gal. 3:26-27; 1 Peter 1:22-23; Rom. 6:17-18).
Are you interested in personal evangelism? Are you preparing to be a participant in this activity? Are you engaged in this most important work? If you are not interested in such, you have no real hope, based on the scriptures, of getting to heaven. And if you are not interested in improving your capabilities and skill in this respect, you can not be happy in God’s service. So, let us look forward to continuing our study next week.
Truth Magazine XIX: 31, pp. 493-494
June 12, 1975